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Last week I started to write a blog post called “The Death of Fantasy Baseball,” about how the fantasy baseball league I’ve played in for the last seven years had finally dissolved. It was going to be a Classic Bobby nostalgia story about how something I loved while I was in my twenties was suddenly less appealing to me in my thirties. (My recent piece about being called “sir” at a Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day party falls into this category.)

But before I could hit “Publish” in my WordPress dashboard to make the piece go live, thus effectively ending my spotty fantasy baseball career, the league started to gain some momentum. Rather than the twelve teams collectively throwing in the towel and skipping fantasy baseball this year, it seemed that we were preemptively missing our league before the season would have even started. (If my fellow managers from the league disagree, feel free to mention that in the Comments–but I certainly felt this way.) On a group email chain we reignited the conversation and agreed upon a date and time for our online draft–a Friday night at 8:30, which should tell you how much our lives have changed from our twenties to our thirties.

The biggest reason the league almost fell apart was that most of us didn’t feel we had enough time to prepare or maintain our teams. Our league is one of the more demanding fantasy leagues, using advance “Moneyball“-friendly statistics categories (e.g. on-base percentage rather than batting average) that most casual fantasy baseball players wouldn’t pay attention to–and the kind that are harder to find on basic “best and worst” rankers on ESPN.com or Yahoo!. It’s also a daily league, meaning lineups can be adjusted each day, rather than a “set it and forget it” weekly lineup that some leagues employ to save everyone the anguish of feverishly checking each day’s match-ups.

I’d been dreading doing the research leading up to the draft–ranking each player by position (e.g. first base or left field) based on our league’s stats and thinking about a strategy for who I would select first, who I would wait to select later in the draft. In this way I felt like an athlete who retires despite most experts saying he could probably play for two or three more years. It’s not that he doesn’t still love his sport, but the preparation, the conditioning, the practicing, the media attention leading up to game day was no longer worth the high he would experience from actually playing in the game itself. (I realize the irony of comparing my fantasy baseball preparation to what an actual athlete goes through to get ready for a season, but I’m sticking with this comparison. Hey, it’s my blog.)

In fact, preparing for and running the league had been so challenging for me that a few years ago, I approached my friend and fellow fantasy manager, Brian, about running a team together. Rather than throwing away our separate $100 entry fees* on two under-managed teams that would finish last and second-to-last in our league, we figured we could co-manage and only lose $50 apiece.

*This is a hypothetical $100, of course. There, that should satisfy the fictitious attorney The 250 Square Foot View keeps on retainer.

The co-managing approached actually worked, leading us to a second-place finish that season. (I think both our wives were happy to see that after six months of “Honey, gimme two minutes…it’s my week to check our fantasy team,” some money was coming back in our direction.)

Now that we’ve drafted our team, I think we’re in pretty good shape–though I say that literally every year, despite winning the league just once, in my first season, when I didn’t know what I was doing–and I’m feeling confident about the upcoming season.

It’ll also be my favorite real (i.e. not fantasy) baseball player Derek Jeter’s last season, and, perhaps, my last year playing fantasy baseball. Who knows, maybe we’ll both go out on top.

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At dinner this past weekend, my future father-in-law, a lifelong Yankee fan since the days when Mickey Mantle roamed centerfield, confessed just two days before the start of the 2013 baseball season that he was considering becoming a fan of the Washington Nationals.

Switching one’s fan allegiance, especially when it comes to baseball teams, is usually a big no-no according to the rules of fandom. But hear him out. He was born and raised in New York City but has been a resident of the suburbs of Washington D.C. for over 30 years. The Nationals only arrived in Washington in 2005. Before that, they were playing in Canada as the Montreal Expos and the closest major league baseball team to D.C. was the Baltimore Orioles an hour away. In becoming a Nats fan, he promised, he would still support the Yankees as his favorite American League team but he’d have more access to the excitement (and the televised games in his local market) to the Nats, of the National League.

Prior to the 2010 season, you would have been hard-pressed to find someone who would care one way or another whether a baseball fan chose to support the hapless Nationals. To put it eloquently, the team stunk. In 2009, they won just 59 games (a .364 winning percentage) and finished dead last in their division, 34 games back of first place. Meanwhile the Yankees had won 95 games and made the playoffs. Again. Becoming a Nationals fan in 2005 to 2009 when you were already a Yankees fan would be like if you drove a mint condition ’57 Chevy and decided to also buy a ’94 Ford Taurus.

But things are different in Washington these days. In 2012 the Nats won their division and reached the playoffs for the first time since moving to D.C. More than that, the two young players everyone hoped would become stars–starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper–had become stars. Though the Nationals didn’t get past the first round of the playoffs in 2012, the future was bright–like, blindingly bright. (Even as the Nationals opened their season today, Strasburg retired 19 batters in a row at one point and Harper hit two home runs. Like I said: bright.)

So back to my FFIL. My advice, since he asked for it, was this: GO ALL IN ON THE NATS! (I didn’t actually yell it–we were in a restaurant.) My 13-year-old self would have punched myself in the face if he heard me say that. But as I wrote at the end of the Yankees anti-climactic 2102 playoff run that saw Derek Jeter suffer a season-ending ankle injury (an injury, by the way, that held him out of the 2013 opening day lineup), I’m no longer sure what I’m rooting for as a Yankee fan.

Rooting for a sports team is meant to be fun. Some fan bases, like the Chicago Cubs’ or the Cleveland Browns’, have historically relished their status as the hard luck losers year after year. But as a Yankee fan, I can tell you that it has been fun because the modern team (1994-present) has always been competitive (and yes, they outspent all the other teams by several millions of dollars to do so). However as I look at the unrecognizable roster with which they opened the 2013  (which, to be fair, has been decimated by injuries), I can’t see any way that it will be more fun to watch the Yankees play baseball in 2013 than it would be to watch the younger, hungrier, and more talented Nationals do it.

Is my FFIL pretty much just jumping on the Nats bandwagon like so many other people will do this year as the Times calls them a “lock” for the World Series? Absolutely. But at least he’s got a geographical claim to the team. I have no such claim, but I’ll be keeping an eye on the Nats from afar here in New York (and keep track of a few of my fantasy team guys that play for Washington) as the Yankees get another year older.

Of course, my blessing to go on and root for the hometown Nationals came with a stern warning: he can go on supporting both the Yankees and Nationals in their respective leagues, American and National, as long as he wants to. But should the two teams meet in the World Series in this or in future years, he’ll have to pick a side once and for all.

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